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The devastating economic consequences of a recent global outbreak of kiwifruit canker disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) spurred on a great deal of highly multidisciplinary and collaborative research and launched a new International Symposium on Psa Research. The second Psa symposium brought together both scientists and members of industry to discuss their approaches to understanding Psa’s virulence strategies, ecology, epidemiology and methods of disease control. The thematic areas addressed in the symposium thus covered the spectrum from the bioinformatics to biology to orchard management. Symposium participants visited an orchard near Imola: for some scientist this was the first occasion to see a kiwifruit orchard.
The session on Psa biology and diversity provided an overview of the global distribution of Psa as well as the role of quorum sensing in virulence and in planta survival. In particular Honour McCann’s talk on the phylogenomics of current and past epidemic lineages of Psa focused on China, which is the origin of kiwifruit and thought to be the origin of the current Psa outbreak, made clear the connections between the different Psa populations. The phylogeny of Psa became a very controversial area after the more aggressive Psa strain was first detected in Italy in 2008; it was crucial to understand which country was the ultimate source of the disease. Subsequently much confusion over the clade nomenclature arose, yet the Psa scientific community has largely agreed on the appropriate nomenclature. Great progress has been made in the control of Psa. Over the last few years different management practices have been developed to mitigate the impact of Psa in the field. The disease control session provided growers with an opportunity to compare their practices and outcomes. Robert Beresford developed an interesting weather-based risk for Psa infection that assists New Zealand growers by predicting when the risk of infection is highest in order to modulate their practices. This model has also been validated in Emilia-Romagna by Loredana Antoniacci.
Steve Lindow gave an excellent talk on P. syringae traits contributing to epiphytic and endophytic fitness. Understanding how P. syringae behaves before and during the infection, and which genes are involved in the pre-infection stage is not only a matter of fascination but can also inform efforts to develop effective methods of inhibiting bacterial colonisation. The social activities highlighted the history, culture and cuisine of the local area; a guided tour of the Dozza castle and the wine tasting of regional vines of Emila-Romagna. Bologna, Italy, was a an excellent choice of symposium venue; not only is Italy the top exporter of kiwifruit, much of which is grown in Bologna, but is one of the culinary capitals of Italy. The organisers also provided attendees with a rare and delicious experience; the opening of a large wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese typical of the region (pictured left).
New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University